The history of Straight North began in 1997, when current Straight North President and Creative Director Kevin Duffy opened Duffy Design Works, a graphic design agency. Located in the western suburbs of Chicago, Duffy Design Works served middle market firms, specializing in collateral communications and producing everything from sales brochures to annual reports to large-format trade show graphics. Over the time of its existence, the company built a strong reputation for doing high-quality work and conducting business with professionalism.
In 2008, Duffy and David Duerr, an entrepreneur and investor with expertise in marketing and executive management, joined forces to co-found Straight North, absorbing Duffy Design Works’ graphic capabilities, and adding greater concentration to Internet marketing services and website development. Duffy and Duerr’s vision was to create a full-service agency helping the underserved middle market. Duerr, also a firm partner, currently serves as our CEO. Straight North established its headquarters in Oak Brook, IL, a suburb west of Chicago.
In 2009, Straight North, already gaining momentum in the marketplace, took a major step forward by acquiring Whoast, Inc., a rapidly growing Internet marketing firm in Chicago founded by current Straight North partner and Chief Operating Officer Aaron Wittersheim. Launched in 2005, Whoast, with current Straight North partner and Vice President of Sales Ian Stevenson managing business development, had built a strong portfolio of clients in SEO, PPC campaign management and web development. Combining the Whoast team, strong in technical skills, with the Straight North team, strong in creative skills, significantly expanded our capabilities, enabling us to successfully take on more complex and larger-scale Internet marketing campaigns and Web development projects.
Also in 2009, Joseph Cahill, current partner and Chief Strategy Officer, joined Straight North, bringing significant direct marketing, strategic planning and organization-building skills to our business. With a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois, Cahill had been a consultant at Andersen Consulting and Waterstone Consulting, as well as one of three executives to start FLOR, a direct marketing company.
In 2010, we expanded capabilities further by acquiring Word Sell Inc., a Chicago-area consultancy specializing in social media and content marketing. Word Sell founder, Brad Shorr, was brought on as Director of Content Strategy to organize content strategy and production, as well as to improve social media marketing and blogging capabilities.
In 2013, Straight North, now with corporate headquarters in nearby Downers Grove, IL, increased our national Internet marketing presence through the acquisition of Ephricon Web Marketing, the largest SEO firm in Charlotte, NC. Now known as Straight North, the Ephricon office in Fort Mill, SC remains our hub for services in the Southeast U.S. Additional offices in Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC are also active. In addition to expanding Straight North’s physical footprint, the Ephricon staff brought tremendous expertise in Internet marketing strategy, adding a level of innovation and creativity to client campaigns that few agencies can match.
Straight North Today
The atmosphere in our offices is energized but informal. Everyone on our staff is focused on one thing: getting results for our clients. If you are looking for office politics, you won’t find it here. You will, however, find plenty of free coffee and snacks, and an occasional three-course meal in the lunchroom.
Employees are encouraged to take on as much work and responsibility as they are willing and able to accept. Our agency is built for growth, and to make that happen, we prize team members eager to advance and take on challenges. To support employees, we offer internal and external training on a regular basis. Our commitment to training — and delivering results — can be seen in the certifications we’ve earned, including being a Google AdWords Certified Partner and a member of the Bing Ads Accreditation Program.
Our focus today is providing a complete suite of Internet marketing and Web development services to B2B and B2C organizations of all sizes. While we continue to manage complex SEO, PPC, display advertising and email marketing campaigns for large clients with expertise second to none, we have recently developed highly innovative internal platforms and processes to deliver high-quality, customized, responsive websites and Internet marketing campaigns to small businesses as well.
A very important service our clients receive is lead validation. We have an in-house staff that reads every form submission and listens to every phone call generated by our campaigns. Why does this matter? Because by doing all of this work, we can tell clients exactly how many leads their campaigns are producing, not merely the number of form submissions and phone calls, which include spam, personal phone calls, sales solicitations, etc. While many agencies overestimate campaign results, we prefer to tell it like it is. We value transparency in our business dealings, and we’re pretty sure you do, too.